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  • ANDREA E. JOHNSON

Harbinger of Nature



Outside a renovated building in Lowertown Saint Paul,

two yellow-bellied sapsuckers

lay lifeless on the ground.

They were perfect in death,


dignified and dapper,

sporting blackest black and whitest white

checked and striped jackets,

topped by fiery red crowns upon their heads.


I could see but a trace of yellow

and wondered if a brush of sap

on their spotted bellies

might flash a brighter color in flight.


They looked like Fabergé jeweled miniatures

lying on the sidewalk

opposite the Farmers’ Market,

one on the damp gray concrete


the other on a metal grate

ringing a bare city tree.

A morning mist magnified their radiance.

I could see no mar on their bodies.


A stopping passerby speculated

the birds succumbed to toxins

sprayed on old buildings

to poison nests of pigeons.


Poem: ANDREA E. JOHNSON grew up in West Saint Paul. She earned bachelors degrees in piano and nursing at the University of Minnesota and an M.Ed. degree from the University of St. Thomas. After a long career, primarily in public health, she picked up writing poetry again. She lives in Lake Elmo.



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